Shanghai is going downhill fast. At least that’s the intention of Majid Al Futtaim, the retail giant planning to build a massive indoor ski resort in the Pudong New Area of the city.

The snow park, called Wintastar Shanghai, represents a bigger, newer and more elaborate version of the Emirati company’s flagship resort, Ski Dubai. The new resort will be three times the size of its counterpart in Dubai.

A futuristic addition to Shanghai’s entertainment scene

Wintastar Shanghai is set to become the world’s biggest indoor ski resort.
Image: KOP Properties

Wintastar is set to become the biggest indoor ski resort in the world, displacing the Wanda Indoor Ski and Winter Sports Resort in the northern city of Harbin as the current biggest.

Covering 90,000 square metres (nearly 1 million square feet), the resort will house three separate slopes of varying gradients and 25 activities for visitors who are unwilling to hurtle downhill on skis or snowboards. According to a 2017 white paper, a sizeable proportion of the Chinese population might fall into this category, as less than 1% of China’s 1.38 billion citizens claimed to have tried skiing.

The resort is one of a number of new initiatives aiming to tap into the emerging entertainment market created by a burgeoning middle class with money to spend.

China’s middle class population in 2002 and 2020 (in millions)

China’s middle class is set to hit 700 million by 2020.
Image: Statista

Following market reforms, China’s unparalleled economic explosion led to the emergence of a wealthy middle class which has experienced exponential growth over the last two decades.

The number of people categorized as middle class is forecast to reach 700 million people by 2020, up from 80 million in 2002.

Rising living standards across the country have lifted more than 600 million people from absolute poverty and changed the consumption habits of the entire nation. New markets have sprung up to cater to the population’s changing needs, among them sports and entertainment.

Olympic fever

One of the three runs at the new Wintastar Shanghai indoor ski resort is described by the owners as "Olympic standard for training". The Chinese government wants to increase involvement in winter sports to 300 million participants by 2025, and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing – the first time China has hosted the Winter Games – could be a major factor in boosting interest.

Policymakers have made school grants available and encouraged involvement from the private sector to help with initiatives like building 600 new ice rinks. Whether a figure skating or skiing gold medalist will emerge remains to be seen.